The PLPG is lucky to have several wonderful program leaders, research associates, and postdoctoral scholars conducting research, mentoring students, and contributing to our research group, department, and college.
I became a part of the PLPG in the spring of 2022 as a postdoctoral research associate affiliated with the Climate Adaptation Partnership (CAP) at CSU. The CAP is an exciting and relatively new venture at CSU that is centered on cultivating transdisciplinary collaboration among campus faculty to tackle the pressing climate related challenges facing Colorado, the nation, and the world in the 21st Century.
I completed my doctorate in the Department of Environment and Society at Utah State University in late 2021. My research was centered in water policy and governance, with particular focus on the human dimensions and water security implications of water reallocation policy in the Intermountain West. While my research centered on specific attributes of water reallocation, my interests include water security at multiple institutional and physical scales, understanding human
behavior in water and land use, and the intersection of water and land management policies in the western states. My doctorate is a deviation in my formal academic training, as I earned my BS (Iowa State University, Go Cyclones!) and MS (Northern Illinois University) in geology and an MSc in hydrology at the Colorado School of Mines.
Prior to my doctoral program at USU, I worked as a hydrogeologist in the private and public sectors for over 15 years in Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming. I was blessed to have worked on some amazing projects that incorporated cutting edge groundwater modeling and geophysical tools and strategies. Yet all the while during this work I knew that I eventually wanted to steer my career in the direction of natural resources policy. I’m thrilled to be part of the PLPG and CAP and the amazing research community at CSU!
I joined the PLPG in fall 2019 as a postdoctoral researcher working on an NSF Macrosystems Biology project, where we are investigating the relative influence of management on U.S. forests at regional to continental scales. I am interviewing forest experts throughout the U.S. to understand past, current, and potential future drivers of forest management, and working with modelers to incorporate this information into our understanding of the ecosystem structure, composition, and function of future U.S. forests.
I completed my PhD in early 2019 in the School of Geography and Development at the University of Arizona, where my dissertation was entitled, “Incentives, Livelihoods, and Forest Ecology: Payments for Ecosystem Services in Guatemala’s Western Highlands.” Using a mixed methods approach of interviews, participant observation, and forest carbon plots, I investigated how national forestry incentives in Guatemala shift governance, management practices, access to resources
and forest carbon storage potential. My overarching research interests combine the fields of political ecology, environmental governance, ecosystem service science, critical physical geography, and natural resource management. Before graduate school, I completed a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Rice University in Houston and worked as a biological technician for several public land agencies in New Mexico and California.
Michelle completed her Masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy at Northern Arizona University. Her graduate research explored how the Forest Service is navigating resilience directives in the 2012 Planning Rule. Her work focused on management implications of this policy in Southwestern forests. After graduation she was a social scientist for the Landscape Conservation Initiative in Flagstaff before starting an internship traveling with the USFWS. Michelle’s research is motivated by the intersection of science and policy.
Her current projects focus on federal fire management with an emphasis on improving decision-making around fuels and fire management, and cross-boundary and partnership efforts associated with US forestlands. Michelle is happy to return to CSU as an alumna who earned a B.S. in Natural Resources Management and minors in English and Global Environmental Sustainability. She is originally from Colorado and enjoys camping, cooking, yoga, and hiking in the Rocky Mountains.
As a graduate student in the PLPG, I researched a prescribed fire outreach program in Northern Colorado. I graduated with my M.S. in Forest Sciences in December 2020, and shortly thereafter, I returned to CSU to continue working with the PLPG as a Research Associate. I am currently working alongside other PLPG researchers on a number of projects, including one that investigates how fuels treatments are incorporated into decision making on wildfire incidents.
I am interested in collaboration and science communication in the field of forest management. I hope to find creative solutions to help bridge the gaps between policy makers, researchers, land managers, and the general public.
Katie McGrath Novak
M.S. Forest Sciences
PLPG Research Associate
Before coming to CSU, I completed a B.S. in Forestry at Southern Illinois University, where I served on the SIU Tree Campus USA committee, was Secretary of the Forestry Club, and completed summer internships with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Conservation.
Former Staff Members
Growing up in Michigan enjoying the public forests and lakeshores nearby inspired me to earn a B.S. degree at CSU in Natural Resource Recreation and Tourism. I applied my degree for the next few years working for NGOs and state and federal land management agencies on many different habitat restoration, fire mitigation, social science, and trail projects on public lands across Colorado and Nevada.
I earned my M.S. degree at the University of Idaho studying people’s attitudes about forest management after pine beetle outbreaks in Grand County, CO. My Ph.D. research at Oregon State University investigated people’s perceptions of post-wildfire landscape recovery and the implications for forest and wildfire management. My post-doc work at Oregon State University, University of Oregon, and Great Basin Institute focused on human dimensions of various natural resource issues, including wildfire management,
collaborative land management, recreation management on public lands, and residents’ attitudes about tourism.
I am excited to be back at CSU and working with Dr. Courtney Schultz’ Public Lands Policy Group as the Wildfire Management Research Program Lead! We are using social science to research wildfire risk management tools, collaboration and shared stewardship, and other issues and policies being implemented by land managers and communities across the U.S.
I attended high school in Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. While living in Germany, I was inspired by the progressive environmental regulation in the county. I knew I wanted to peruse an education that would support this spirit of conservation and policy. I moved to Colorado in 2016 to start my undergraduate degree in Human Dimensions of Natural Resources. As a student, I interned at Grand Teton National Park as a Social Scientist and conducted a human-wildlife interaction study at the park’s “Bear Jams” (traffic jams caused by visitors watching grizzly bears). This experience opened my eyes to the value and opportunity in public land management In 2018, I started working with Courtney on my undergraduate honors thesis and had the opportunity to engage in both American and European policy. My thesis, entitled “Carbon Indicators: A Comparative Analysis of the Californian and European Union Carbon Scheme” reviewed the development and implementation of Carbon Markets.
After finishing my thesis, I stayed with PLPG assisting in a variety of research projects until I graduated in December 2019. I had the opportunity to build on my thesis and further study carbon offsets and sequestration management. I joined the lab full-time in January 2020 and now research Forest Service policy and strategies, including Shared Stewardship and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. I am primarily interested in cross-boundary landscape management and engaging local communities.
BS – Human Dimensions of Natural Resources
PLPG Research Associate